I asked Joan Lee if she had any other positively identified images of Fred to use for comparison. She did:
In this one, Fred is a young man. This image looks like a high school graduation picture, which would place it in the c. 1900 time frame. His clothing and hair are appropriate for this period.
If you compare this image to the one featured last week, you’ll see how the two men have strong jaws, but their other features aren’t a match. They have different ears, eyes and even hair.
There’s an even bigger question in Joan’s research than who’s who in the first image: She’s been thorough and careful, but could she be looking at the wrong family tree. She started with a simple question about her father-in-law, Melvin Lee. “Who was his father?” Lee didn’t know. He’s alternated used Lee as a surname with that of his step-father, Martinson. Joan aimed to find out.
Joan found Melvin’s birth record in a microfilm of the St. Petrie American Lutheran Church (Nome, North Dakota) 1904/05 register she’d obtained from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His parent’s were listed as Fred Cleigbol and Josie Lee. Josie Lee wasn’t married to Cleigbol.
Tracking down additional information on the Lee family didn’t turn up any new leads on Melvin’s father, but Joan did find a name change. The Lees were Norwegian immigrants originally named Olson. The family legally changed their surname in 1876.
I’m impressed with Joan’s follow-through. She researched 28 surname variations and left messages on multiple message boards. No luck!
A breakthrough came when a Lee cousin planned a family reunion and arranged a service at the St. Petrie Church. Joan’s job was to write down the family history so that it could be handed out to attendees. As she was working, she began to think, “Could the C in Cleigbol be a K?” Her husband studied the record and agreed with her that it could represent a K when pronounced. She suddenly started finding information on Fred Klingbiel and connected with two other relatives.
Finally she felt the missing pieces fall into place. The Canadian branch of the Klingbeil family told her that Fred’s father Julius had immigrated to join his brother Louis in Canada before moving to the United States. The documentation seemed to prove the relationship between her husband and his Canadian cousin.
Being a thorough researcher, Joan thought, “why not confirm it through DNA?” Oh boy, there was yet another twist in this tale. Stay tuned for next week. Joan and I need another week to sift through this part of the story.